LETTERS FROM ESTHER #32 Making and Breaking Wedding Traditions

Some thoughts inspired by Esther Perel’s LIVE video about wedding traditions and the way in which they are evolving. Why do wedding traditions matter? What is Ceremony for? My thanks to Sophie Pedroza for this artwork and to Elen Mai Photography for these gorgeous images. and of course to darling Leo and Paul.

I recently almost died from joy when I learned that my hero Esther Perel went live to talk about Wedding Traditions, making them, breaking them…and engaged with her followers all around the world with regard to their own relationship to their wedding traditions. She is my fave and ceremonial traditions are also my fave and therefore I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

Leo and Paul decided to follow a tradition in the LGBTQIA+ community and put their rings on their right hands

Needless to say, she did not disappoint. She engaged her audience around their needs and expectations of wedding tradition and I urge you to watch it.https://www.estherperel.com/blog/letters-from-esther-32-making-and-breaking-wedding-traditions

The image above is of a Gay couple, who are also my friends and previously neighbours, and with whom I worked to create a ceremony . It was a ceremony to mark the occasion of the conversion of their Civil Partnership to Marriage. There was a significance to the date, and well, to everything they did really.

In this image they are placing their rings on their right hands. They were honouring an historical tradition in Gay communities in the UK where the Gay couples would indicate that they were Gay and or married by wearing a ring on their fourth fingers, as an act of identification, defiance and to be subversive. They couldn’t be legally married and wear them on their left hands and so they claimed their own tradition. These gorgeous people decided to honour that tradition and continued to wear it on their right hands. The rings were made in 1914 and 1916 and my friends were particularly moved to think about the stories these rings would tell if they could. The 24 years of relationship had worn grooves into their fingers and they loved that.

looking at photos from the past 24 years

This historical reference and the importance of continuity was a feature of their celebrations. In this photo Leo and Paul’s family of choice are looking backwards as they looked forwards. Ceremonies are so often about the past, the present and the future all at the same time. This ceremony marked a 24 year relationship. The ceremony was totally fresh, unlike anything I’d ever done before and I’ve done this for 8 years . It was so incredibly beautiful, affirming and moving. It borrowed from history and it moved it onwards, it was a classic example of the evolution of traditions.

Joy, Ceremonies are about Joy in the midst of it all

At this time Wedding ceremonies are a different metaphorical ‘colour’. No one has remained unaffected by Covid 19. Some people want to talk about it and some people can’t bear to hear it mentioned. Some are traumatised and know it, others are traumatised and don’t know it. Still others may not be traumatised at all as individuals, but on a communal level this just can’t be the case. As a community, a Global community, now grappling with the latest war we can all expect to be experiencing some level of change or transformation brought about during the past few years. Most of my conversations about ceremonies now, in subtle and more explicit ways will touch upon the need for ‘New Beginnings’ and celebrating those who had shared our journeys, those who have survived and those who survive in our memories. This ceremony was no exception. I love this image of these two neighbours of mine who became friends as we journeyed through Covid. They are toasting the past, this present moment and looking to the future.

I am constantly fascinated by the Human Spirit and it’s capacity for healing and transformation. Ceremonies are about many, many things. Some are about new life, literally…when a baby is born. Some are about long term commitments, some are about mourning. All, absolutely all of them, are about Affirming our Humanity and almost all are about community too.

I feel intense gratitude for my vocation. I see people celebrate their human lives and I see how much they cherish those around them. In this ceremony they actually gave presents to all of their friends as a thank you. Often at ceremonies, perhaps particularly in a UK context we are able to say and do the things we probably won’t do or say unless we are legless in a pub.

At a ceremony we can legitimately cry, we can unashamedly tell people we love them, we can thank them and they can’t run away. Ceremonies create a space to connect, to be uncommonly emotionally honest. I have much more to say…but I have run out of time!